Radio is stranger than fiction! Below you will find a true story about the radio business.
Please share your experiences and comments with us. Just send us an e-mail with the grizzly details of your radio horror story. E-Mail your story or comments to KRUD
In the 70's among the stations I drifted through was a small FM-er in the Tampa Bay area. I wound up in the News department as the newsguy for our Drivetime Talk show, hosted by a blustering, name-dropping Big Apple drop-out who graced our burg with his "was having lunch with Bobby, YOU just know him as Bob Hope" stories. According to him he had done lunch with everybody. Just nobody that could get him a job in New York City anymore. At any rate, he was the type to run up a huge nightly tab at one of our restaurant trade outs. One early morning I made my usual phone rounds to all agencies, including the Highway Patrol and local PD. To my typical Anything Important Happen Overnight question the PD dispatcher, snickering, says, "Oh, nothing much. Typical Driving while Intoxicated arrests. Um, I guess you know we have your guy down here in the holding tank?" "Uh, what guy would that be?" "You know, Jim (name withheld)!"
Wellllll, Jim was our aforementioned talk show host. Jim was supposed to be in the studio getting ready in a few minutes to go on. I am the news update lead in for his show. We were separated by a hallway, no glass between for a visual, so I am unaware until this phone call that Jim, while making the police blotter, is not in Control A. And that Jim likely will not be in for his show. And it is now dawning on me that I am the only station employee, besides Jim, who is aware of this impending crisis. I thank the dispatcher as calmly as I can after nonchalantly inquiring as to Jim's expected release time. Not until after the arraignment before the judge LATER. It is also dawning on me that our sponsors will be extremely upset with Jim's Drunk-On-His-Ass status---not only THIS morning, but publicity wise overall.
I immediately wake up the station's General Manager, who is the son of the station's owner (amazing coincidence). I inform him of our emergency status. I do the newscast and make some sort of explanation for the lack of regularly scheduled programming to follow. I keep the canned music tapes going and try to load in whatever spots are on the log to play during the Talk Show that should be running right now.
Well, to add to the WKRP-ness of this sitcom, the GM who I phoned just happens to have gone through a very dramatic born-again experience that has totally transformed his OWN talk show that follows Jim's. So, we have now the Alcoholic preceding the Preacher, and Hell to pay if the sponsors don't. And they are already getting queasy about the Mid-Day sermonizing. Particularly when callers are repeating back provocatively liberal pronouncements they remember dropping from the formerly hard-talking lips of our GM just scant months before. Now the GM show regularly features him recanting his own formerly sinful words with newly learned Biblical quotes.
That is background. Half an hour later, as I am preparing the next newscast, the GM bursts in. Breathing heavily, redfaced, wildeyed, he tells me that he has bailed Jim out of the drunk tank and that he, the GM, will be handling the board in Control A. We are going to have a TWO host show. He scurries off looking positively ecstatic.
What happens next is the most bizarre (and I have plenty of memories to compare it with) half hour of radio I have ever experienced.
Preacher GM/talk show host plays Jim's Intro and then opens his mike to explain that "This will not be a typical show" this morning. I have to sneak a peek. I come around the corner and look through the studio glass. Jim sits at the other mike, slumped, looking like a man who, well, needs another drink, and probably still breathing flammable fumes. His eyes are bloodshot and weepy. He trembles. I sense this will be an historic broadcast. I sense sponsors leaving in droves. I sense I should keep an aircheck tape rolling for either entertainment or as subsequent Exhibit A in court proceedings.
I too am shaky. This does not look good. I expect it will sound worse. "Jim," says our solicitously warm GM, "do you want to tell our listeners where you have been and what has just happened to you?"
OH MY GOD! WE ARE DOOMED!
Jim struggles to find the words, or to unglue his swollen tongue from the dry roof of his mouth. "Well, I...I...was.....in jail this morning." "Why were you in jail, Jim?" "Uh, be...be..because I was arrested for..for..." "You can do it, Jim, just tell the truth. It's okay." I am spellbound. This is much worse than I had anticipated.
"Uh, okay, okay. Well, I was arrested for drunk driving." "And why were you arrested, Jim?" "Because, because I was.....DRUNK. Because I AM a drunk! That's why!" "Good, Jim, good. Open up. See, all you have to do is tell the truth." Now our GM/Co-Host begins to warm to this confessional role. "Go on, Jim. Let it all out." And Jim lets it all out. He begins to sob and weep. He confesses what a lush he is. The phones begin to light up. Half, I will learn, are listeners to offer congrats, encouragement, or utterances of groggy befuddlement. The other half of those phone lights are sponsors trying to reach the sales department to pull their spots immediately. No such luck.
As horrible as this all is sounding I realize that to some ears this is GREAT RADIO. Not prosperous radio, but a hell of an entertainment value. And THEN we go from entertainment to the Almighty God Salvation Hour.
Jim, it seems, and we hear the tortured details in halting, then great streams of sobs and words, has learned that he is a SINNER. In need of salvation. Right now. And in case God missed it the first time GM Preacherman is going to lead Jim Sinnerman back through the sinners prayer one more time ON THE AIR.
I can bear to look no more. I retreat into the newsroom to try and prepare such headlines as "Police are still looking for the unidentified driver who ran down a young New Port Richey woman as she stopped to fix a flat tire." I can't help but briefly consider Jim's confession that he drove drunk night after night. I stare at the county wall map. The path he would have driven home. Hoooo boy! The speakers are piping in equally grim news. Jim the Unredeemed Sinnerman Morning Talkshow Host is confessing his abject unworthiness for what he is now to receive, thanks to General Manager recently born again on-fire-for-the-Lord-now-is-as-good-a-time-as-any for redemption Man. Through sobs and tears and grunts and groans and "repeat after me, Jim" the hotline rings in the newsroom. It is the station owner, the GM's father. "What in the hell is going on? I just woke up and turned this shit on!" "Uh, sir, you will have to ask your son. But, he's in prayer right now."
Well, all hell did break loose for a while. We lost sponsors. We lost our GM. We gained publicity and picketers. And another story for the KRUD archives. Read it and pray for similar mercies.
David Hunter (former "Orange Freak" of the semi-legendary "The Underground Railroad")
Thanks to David for sharing a great story about radio with us. It took a little time to type all that into an e-mail to KRUD and we really appreciate your contribution. No doubt, others that have read this thank you for the story as well. Now, what about the rest of you radio losers?
Jim and Brian
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